Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14, 2015 Haiku Poetry

Three haiku poems by Max


Chinook

Tulips bowing deep
Cherry blossoms shaking loose
Banners are flying



Circle

Sunlight to flower
Flower becomes cottontail
Snake swallows itself

First

The first spring petals 
Contrast brightly on snow when
Vibrant blossoms fall















photo credit: via photopin (license)
photo credit: Everyday Is A Winding Road via photopin (license)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SOLSC March 31 - Time is a Treasure



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com





"I think that's Drake and one of his daughters over there," Susan commented.

After checking the traffic in front of me I stole a quick glade to my left. Sure enough, two lanes over, was Drake and his teenage daughter in their white minivan. The name Meghan floated up from the depths of my brain and attached itself to the face that was several years older than when we had last seen it.

I gave my horn a couple of quick toots but they did not look over. The traffic slowed at a red light and  I had to pay closer attention to the cars around me. I gave one more try with the horn but they were engaged in their own conversation and that silly car moment of recognition and connection was missed.


How to spend the treasure that is time?

Drake's wife, Elizabeth, taught at the same school as Susan and Meghan was in Susan's class for fourth grade. Elizabeth and Drake were our walking buddies and we used to meet regularly at the park between our houses and walk a few mile-long laps on around the lake. We connected well, had some travel stories to tell, and laughter was easy and often. We shared the occasional meal with each other and they invited us a few times to their family's house in Grand Lake.

Then things changed because life changes. First the school where Susan and Elizabeth worked closed. This lead to Drake and Elizabeth's family moving to ensure the schools they wanted for their daughters. While they moved only ten minutes farther away, meeting at the park was not as convenient. We went over to their new house several times, even doing some walks from there around the big high school and parks in the area. Then Susan was pregnant and the walks could no longer be at the brisk fifteen-minute mile pace we were all used to. We had Clara the next summer. After all that, there were a couple of the mandatory baby viewings but them we were busy in a new way and our connection was too easily lost.

There is now a disc golf course in the park near their new house. I have been playing a round with friends there on Sunday afternoons. While I'm there I steal an occasional glance to see if they are walking along the path that winds along the edge of the course. I know it's a long shot since they are morning walkers but things do change.

Seeing Drake yesterday makes me think of all the people and things that are important but need the time taken to stay relevant. I'm lucky to have had a lot of friends but sadly, with most, I know what's going on with them due more to social media than due to getting together. I've had over a thousand students in my classes that I have loved and worked with and watched grow, and they too become faded memories all too quickly unless we keep a connection going. It's almost April, which means there are nine students of my twenty-three, who will soon be leaving my class for good. Four have been with me for three school years and the others are in their second year in my class. That's a lot of real-time hours we've spent together in the classroom and on trips, that email, Facebook and the occasional visit can not replace.

Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. It's the second year I've participated and completed it. Again, my students have blogged like stars and there are many who wrote for thirty-one days straight along with, and often ahead of me. I feel a lot of pride in myself and even more in them. I know I would not have done it except to be a model for them. It's an example of how my students continually push me to work at my own writing skills, the craft of teaching, and to be a better person.

Last year I did not keep writing as I wish I had after the SOLSC. I don't know what I will do this year.  As with many important things in life, I get to make the choice what I find time for.

I should find the time for a walk with Elizabeth and Drake.

photo credit: Time Pieces via photopin (license)

Monday, March 30, 2015

SOLSC March 30th - First Cast



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

The creek's simple music played upon my soul as the sun, not yet hot but warm in the cool breeze, heated my back. Some of the first butterflies wafted by, highlighted against the traces of left over snow on the far bank; water ouzels flew low along the creek, chirping their distinctive cries.

I tied on an elk hair caddis, basically a bushy bundle of elk hair on a hook, in the hopes that this attractor pattern would bring a spotted brown trout to the surface. Brown trout, especially under twelve inches, like the ones that inhabit this section of Bear Creek, are so pretty with their yellow tinged bellies, dark tops, and yellow and red spots. They tend to be voracious, good fighters, and they are always a wonderful first fish of the season.
Learning to tie a fisherman's knot.
After attaching the red and white bobber, I stepped back and smiled. The first cast belonged to her.
First cast of the season!

The fisher people take a rest to enjoy the music of the day!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

SOLSC March 29 - What's in a Name?



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

One night, three years before Clara was born, I had a dream. I heard footsteps come down the hallway, our door opened slowly and a child's voice gently called out, "Dad?"  I woke up immediately, full of emotion and hope, because my wife and I had been trying, for several unsuccessful years, to conceive. Eventually, with the help of medical technology, were blessed with Clara and there was finally someone to call me, "Dad," in the world.

Throughout my life, I've been called a lot of names; not just nasty ones but many variations of my own name, which is Max. Actually, my whole name is M-A-X. Not "So it's just Max," but it IS Max. Max is by far the most common moniker for me but I've also be called: Maxmillian, Maxwell, Shmaxwell, Max Headroom (I did grow up in the 80s), Mad Max, and even Beyond Thunderdome. Only a few people are allowed to call me 'Maxie' and they include my parents, my wife, and oddly, the catcher on my college baseball team. Everyone else who tries to call me 'Maxie' gets politely shut down.

As a teacher, I also get called a few names by my students, again, not just the nasty ones. For the first nine years of my professional life, I was called 'Mr. Maclay.' That was a little odd at first and while I would have preferred Max or even Mr. Max, that was not an option. Now I'm called Max by my students because our school is on a first name basis. But fun and slightly awkward moments arise when I get called Dad or even Mom by my students. And that brings us to an interesting point.

My daughter calls me Max. 

She knows I'm her dad, and did call me Dada early on. But when she was three, she found out that Mom and Dad had other names that were Susan and Max. She still calls Susan 'Mom' most of the time although she will pull out 'Susan' when she really wants her attention. 

But me, she calls Max over 90% of the time. 

She is the only person in the world who gets to call me Dad and I'm Max to her. It was somewhat cute at first, but at this point I wish I was Dad in name and not just in action. It doesn't really matter in the long run. I am her dad and she knows it. Our relationship is not any less special because of it; you might argue it's even more unique, but it does gnaw at me a little. Ironically, she mistakenly calls me, "Hey Mom! Ooops. Sorry...Max," more often than she calls me 'Dad." 

I guess that's just the way it is. She gets to be her own independent person and as long as she doesn't start calling me those other, nasty names, I guess I can live with it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SOLSC March 28th - Yard Work and Blood



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

Today was the start of spring break and my task was to create a chicken run for our four hens. During the fall and winter, they had plenty of time strutting and digging around the backyard. But now that the flowers are coming back and the garden is sprouting, the hens seem to peck at everything green. So to give them some real space beyond the small run attached to the coop, I extended their run.

The chicken tunnel and our four hens
Clara and I hit Lowes for some wire and stakes and while she played, I started laying out the addition to the coop and the small existing run. Actually, I made a small chicken tunnel for them along the back fence from their coop and once they got into it, they seemed pretty happy.

It was a fairly easy job but I did have to dig up a row of irises and do some manipulating of the wire fence to bend it into a nice tunnel. All seemed to be going well until the last bit. 

I attached the wire tunnel to the chicken wire wall on the coop. Now all I had to do was make a door. Grabbing my trusty wire cutters, I started snipping the chicken wire from the inside of the coop, trying to be careful of the sharp edges. I was feeling pretty pleased that I had bought some new work gloves since my old ones had holes in the fingers and I could now bend the sharp thin wire with relative impunity. 

Guess I should have worn less nice shorts
Crouched in the coop making the last snips, I looked at my leg and saw several spots of fresh blood. I checked my forearm and there near the elbow was a bloody mess, about the size of a chicken egg,  half-dried and sticky. I never felt a thing but obviously I had gotten sliced by a stray wire edge somewhere. Since it didn't seem to be bleeding much I finished the job, called my wife over to see the hens use the tunnel for the first time and as a bonus got to show off my wound. 

As the hens raced and scratched in their new digs, I went inside to wash my elbow and inspect the damage. It's amazing how much blood can weep from a tiny scratch and this was no exception. It was barely the width of my pinkie nail in length and could be passed off as a mild cat scratch if necessary. Even my wife was disappointed when I showed it to her.

Our hens don't really care about the blood sacrifice I made today, but they like the run.


Ginger, Cinders and Snow White  

Friday, March 27, 2015

SOLSC March 27th - White Board Mustache



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

At the start of the year, I put a green, stick-on mustache on a corner of my white board. I usually reserve a corner of the white board for some sort of daily student art and I was curious what faces would be drawn about the mustache. To my delight, students did indeed start using it within their drawing but they quickly progressed beyond faces and started incorporating the mustache as wings or hair or feet or any number of things. Only just recently did I start taking pictures before erasing the drawings but here are a few of the ones that have been created this year. I enjoy watching them get drawn or be surprised by a whole new art "installation" while I've been gone from my desk working with a student.  

Enjoy the Art of the Green Mustache!
By Max and Kam's students








Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SOLSC March 26th - Thursday Means Staff Breakfast!



Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

On Thursdays during the school year I get a few extra minutes in my morning. I may hit SNOOZE an extra time, shower for a few minutes longer, or make a special breakfast for my wife and daughter and sit with them while they eat it. I don't eat it with them though.

Then, after arriving at school hungry, I walk down the tiled hallway, leaning against my messenger bag filled with my laptop and homework, anticipating the door to the teacher's lounge. Thursday breakfasts are a bit like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

We have sixty-five wonderful people on the staff of my school and take turns providing breakfast each Thursday. A sign up sheet goes around at the first preservice staff meeting, and people choose a Thursday during the school year to be in charge of breakfast. Each week it's a little different and the tenor of the breakfast or the week leads to more or less people hanging out and eating before school starts. 

The counter is often graced with tablecloths and decorations, depending on the season and music often adds a new lovely ambiance to the whole room. Plates are provided or we are encouraged to bring our own to wash and be a little more environmentally conscious.

Staff members grab a plate of food, wait in line for coffee and chat at the tables. Others come by for a quick hello, an easily carried item for their desk, and are off again. For the 30-45 minutes before school, most of the staff will come by and at least get something to nourish their bodies or conversations and smiles to fill their souls before heading off to work with the kids in their rooms.
photo credit: Raisin Bread French Toast via photopin (license) 

We have some pretty typical breakfasts like:
Various carb treats and fruit
Potato/egg casseroles
Breakfast burritos (pre-made or create-your own)
Cereal bar or granola with yogurt
Meat and cheese
Or often a mixture of the above.

Some people go all out and bake amazing treats, or bring homemade French toast or waffles. Others make regional or cultural fare that are special for the recipes and this uniqueness. Tater tots are always a popular addition to any breakfast and it's not uncommon for a large bowl of M&Ms to be siphoned off by the staff throughout the day.

Every once in a while, disaster strikes and someone forgets it's their turn, or there was an unnoticed, blank Thursday and no one filled it. The empty lounge and counter are extra bleak and people hungrily poke their heads in before checking their mailbox and rummaging through their desks and cabinets for the ubiquitous snacks we all stash. But heroines and heroes are made on those mornings when someone makes a quick run to the store and saves the day. Other times, someone notices a blank spot the day before and an impromptu potluck is created via emails, with everyone pitching in.

Today is Thursday, and I can't wait for those few extra minutes I save at home not eating breakfast, and the camaraderie of our staff as we break bread together.